A richly detailed, scholarly examination of the rise of the civil rights movement in Louisiana. Fairclough (American...


"RACE AND DEMOCRACY: The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915--1972"

A richly detailed, scholarly examination of the rise of the civil rights movement in Louisiana. Fairclough (American History/Univ. of Leeds, England; Martin Luther King, Jr., 1994, etc.) uses Louisiana as a case study to show that the movement's origins were not in the much-celebrated struggles of the 1960s but in the lesser-known civil rights battles of the first half of the century. Louisiana, he writes, long harbored deep wells of racism. The KKK found the New Orleans area especially fertile ground for recruiting in the 1920s; in the 1930s white voters sent Allan J. Ellender of Houma, Terrebone Parish, to the US Senate for the first of six terms. Ellender would go on to harangue his colleagues with a 27-hour filibuster against a federal anti-lynching bill, remarking for the record that the ""habits"" of blacks ""indicate inherent dishonesty, laziness, slothfulness, etc."" Against that virulent backdrop, Fairclough paints a picture of a strong and ever-growing black citizens' movement for racial equality. As early as the 1920s, black consumers were boycotting known racist employers and demonstrating against unfair labor practices. During the Depression, Governor Huey Long, while not above baiting his audiences with anti-black sentiments, took a practical approach to race relations, quipping that ""you could feed all the 'pure whites' in Louisiana with a nickel's worth of red beans and a dime's worth of rice."" His populism, writes Fairclough, embraced black Louisianans and served as a model for post-Depression political coalitions. In colleges, churches, and especially the US Postal Service, where well-educated blacks most easily found work, there arose dedicated cadres of civil rights workers, who orchestrated the ""Double V campaign"" of victory against fascism abroad and against racism at home. Fairclough has documented an American success story in this valuable contribution to the literature of the civil rights movement.

Pub Date: May 1, 1995


Page Count: 625

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995